Hey guess what… The Kids Are Alright! – Well most of the time…
This post is dedicated to the silly 17-year-old who was recently arrested for his very daft (and hopefully in the long-term forgettable) Twitter run-in with Olympic diver Tom Daley. Now just to get this clear upfront… this kid was an idiot, Tom is a fantastic athlete and did not in any way deserve the abuse he suffered. But let’s also stop to pause a moment… The young chap who sent these tweets was exactly that… a young kid. If you didn’t catch the story you can get the general gist of what happened here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/diving/9442445/Hunt-for-Tom-Daley-Twitter-troll-seaside-police-raid-nets-suspect-17.html
I watched Twitter whilst this story was breaking and resisted the urge to RT his nonsense or call him out for being such an idiot. But it did leave me thinking on this issue and how the fall out has raised many questions about what education is needed for a generation of young people who have grown up with social media, and who at times do not realise the consequences of their internet posts.
Two of my closest friends are teachers at secondary schools in Leeds and they have some pretty shocking stories about what young people get up-to on mobile phones and social media sites. Let’s just say at times it appears there is a lack of ‘inhibition’ amongst some of the young people they teach and this raises challenges for them when protecting their students welfare. Now I say this as someone in their twenties… but even I am shocked at seemingly how little consideration some have for the long-term effects of the kind of information that is put online.
But let’s also put some context around this… I am also equally shocked that a young person could similarly be ‘written off’ by an employer because of something they have, or their friends have (let’s not forget Facebook make it very difficult for the majority to work out how not to be tagged in a drunken night out photo), posted online. After all some people seem far too quick to forget that sites like Facebook and Twitter all started because they are ‘social’ media sites way before any brand or marketeers got involved in them.
So what’s my point and what do I think should be done?
I have X2 points on this issue:
1. Kids need to be educated more about what is and isn’t appropriate content for social media sites and the potential serious consequences of their content
2. Employers and the public in general should (for the majority of the time) give young people and prospective employees a bit of a break when it comes to social media content, because after all… social media only shows a tiny snapshot of that person, not the whole story
So what do I think should be done? This is a tough one…
I think a mix of education within schools and helping parents understand the potential effects of online content could be a good start. Helping kids understand what counts as ‘appropriate’ content for social media sites and that what they put online could be around for a very long time, tied to their name, is also key. But also let’s not patronise a whole generation. When I was 17 I knew it would have been a bad idea to shout abuse at someone in the street – and now Twitter is essentially no different. The interesting and challenging thing for a generation of socially enabled young people is ensuring that they understand social media channels are now the street – and many people can hear you scream!
I don’t think the young chap from the Tom Daley case will be the 1st of last person to display very questionable behaviour on Twitter (he’s given all us Social Media types something to blog about at least). But I do hope some good can come out of it, even if it’s a warning to others that threatening or bullying behaviour on Twitter is, quite rightly, being treated very seriously. But as the acquittal of the ‘Twitter Bomber’ who threatened in a joke tweet to blow up Doncaster airport shows – we are all still finding our way through the social media communication revolution… the rules are developing as quick as the technology!